November 25, 2008

November 25, 2008
Daddy Dab's 10 Holiday Etiquette Tips

Here is a list you will want to check twice!

1. Do not invite both members of a divorced or separated couple to a holiday gathering unless you know they are on good terms. Most people who split up prefer not to see each other, at least initially. Bringing the two together could make them and possibly others uncomfortable. Instead, plan to see them separately over the holidays. That will be more time consuming, but it will be worth the effort if you want to stay friends with both parties.

2. If a guest gets drunk at your home, stop serving him alcohol and see that he gets home safely. Refusing to pour more liquor for an inebriated guest may be awkward, but it is necessary. Tell the person in private why you are cutting him off. Then ask another guest to take him home. If no one is able to give him a ride, call a cab for him (and pay for it if need be). Or, simply provide him with a bed for the night. Never, never, never let a guest drive away intoxicated. Sure, he may be embarrassed or insulted at the moment, but at least he will be alive in the morning.

3. When Aunt Irma, feeling inventive, brings her cucumber banana gelatin mold to Christmas dinner, accept graciously (no eye rolling, please). A good host responds to an unexpected and perhaps unwelcome contribution with aplomb. Thank your aunt and serve her creation with your spread. You might think cucumber and banana is a disgusting combination but now is not the time to tell her so, and you would hurt her feelings if you failed to offer it to your guests.

4. If gift giving with your relatives is getting too expensive, it is okay to scale back as long as you discuss it with them well in advance. Ending gift escalation is not as hard as you think, if you are willing to be frank. Months before the holidays, bring up the idea of alternative giving schemes. Some options: drawing names, limiting presents to a specific dollar amount, giving gifts only to kids and not to adults. Others will probably be grateful that you were brave enough to start the discussion.

5. When you receive horrible, wrong size or duplicate gifts, smile, say something polite, extend a thank you and then run for the returns line. A collector's plate featuring Yosemite Falls? Really, what was your mother in law thinking? Still, you can probably come up with something appreciative to say: "This is so thoughtful! You know how much I love the outdoors." But being gracious about a gift does not mean you always have to keep it. Yes, if the item is one of a kind or homemade like a painting or a knitted scarf, you are stuck with it. Otherwise, you can take the item back to the store and exchange it for something else. And when your friend asks how you like your new hand blender? Do not lie. Say, "I love those so much, I already owned one so I did not think you'd mind if I exchanged it for a food mill. Thanks for making my life in the kitchen so much easier!"

6. Regift rarely if ever. You have a surplus of "stuff," and it seems like the best way to downsize is to pass things on to other people. Makes sense. Problem is, if the truth emerges, two loved ones will feel hurt the original giver (because you obviously did not value her choice) and the recipient (who thought you had taken the time to find something special just for her). The basic guidelines for regifting: First, you must be positive that the gift is something the recipient would love. Second, the item must be brand new and in its original package. And third, it should not be something the original giver took great care to select just for you. An example: Regifting a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to a wine lover is okay. Regifting a crystal vase your mother brought you from Bermuda is not.

7. If you are creating a holiday newsletter to send with cards, keep your readers in mind. Newsletters should be short (a page or less) and sweet. Keep them upbeat most people do not want to hear about your dental surgery. On the other hand, avoid turning your letter into a brag sheet. Saying, "Sam and I were lucky enough to visit Europe at long last!" is low key and friendly. But "Sam and I spent a week at a deluxe French spa and were utterly pampered" screams "Don't you wish you were us?" Personalize each copy with a handwritten salutation and always sign your name. Also, be sure you're sending the newsletter only to people who are genuinely interested in your family news.

8. When you receive a holiday card from someone you did not send one to, reciprocation is optional. Send if you wish. But beware of turning the exchange of holiday cards into a table tennis match. Say a card arrives from your cousin Myron on the seventh day of Hanukkah, and oops, you had accidentally forgotten him. Instead of thwacking a card back across the Web, which may seem perfunctory rather than sincere, wait a few weeks and write him a letter. Or, call Myron to thank him for such a thoughtful note.

9. In fact, there is no obligation to send holiday cards at all. Too stressed? Forgo the tradition this season, but vow to get in touch at another time of year: Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, first week of fall, etc. You will have more time for writing cards and hopefully will not view it as such a chore.

10. Do not start decorating for the holidays until after Thanksgiving. Once Santa has passed by in the Macy's parade, you are good to go. Earlier than that, and it may seem as if you never bothered to take anything down from last year!

I hope these helpful hints help you survive another holiday season. Remember the most important gift you can give is your time. Spend what time you are given with someone special to you.

Wishing you health, hope, happiness and a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab